Amnesty: Egypt military strike against Libya may amount to war crime

Amnesty: Egypt military strike against Libya may amount to war crime

[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] claimed [press release] Monday that the Egyptian military failed to take adequate precautionary measures to avoid civilian casualties in an attack on the Libyan city of Derna last week. The airstrikes occurred in the early morning hours of February 16, and AI argues that indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations, such as this attack by the Egyptian military, amount to war crimes. The AI article cites eyewitness testimonies from local residents who claim there are no military targets near the largely residential area of Sheiha al-Gharbiya, where two missiles were fired resulting in the deaths of seven civilians. Additionally, Sheiha al-Gharbiya is located near the city’s university [Reuters report]. The international community is largely restricted to eyewitness accounts of missile attacks within urban areas of Libya due to the hostile conditions for journalists [JURIST report] in the country. The Egyptian airstrikes were executed in retaliation [JURIST report] for the slaughter of 21 Egyptian Christians. AI urges the Egyptian military and all warring parties in Libya to take all feasible precautions to spare civilians and to ensure that their forces do not carry out direct attacks on civilians or attacks which are indiscriminate or disproportionate.

The escalating violence in Libya [BBC report], from neighboring governments and terrorist groups, has led to some of the most deadly attacks in the country since the 2011 uprising [JURIST backgrounder] and subsequent civil war that deposed Muammar Gaddafi. Last Friday the Islamic State (IS) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] led suicide bombings in eastern Libya [JURIST report], killing at least 40 people and injuring 70 more. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein last week condemned the recent violence in Libya and the UN published a report [JURIST reports] the week prior documenting a very bleak picture for human rights conditions in Libya. In January AI called on the UN Security Council to impose sanctions and encourage accountability [JURIST report] through International Criminal Court indictments and prosecutions to end the cycle of human rights violations and war crimes being committed in Libya.